Thursday, May 25, 2006

Amazing amazons and magnificent mutants.

Thanks to the good graces of a pal of mine, I received a link to this most amazing video in my email today:

I could seriously watch that video 10 times every hour for the rest of my life. Sure, I might get a little bored, but it's doubtful.

People have often asked me where my Wonder Woman fixation comes from. I was recently one of several people quoted in a piece in The Advocate about why gay people love super heroes so much. Because I knew I wasn't supposed to babble on endlessly about the whys and wherefores of my love of super heroes, I kept it short and to the point: as a queer person I identified with the concept of having a secret identity, a part of yourself you had to hide away in case the world couldn't handle it. In case your true self was something they weren't ready to face. There was also the little mention of the hot, hairy chested (and criminally overused all over the Marvel universe) Wolverine, an early instigator of my attraction to hairy chested men.

But there's more to it then the few simple quotes I provided. My first memories of loving super heroes came from watching the Wonder Woman TV show which started airing when I was about 5 years old. I was immediately obsessed with the show and with her. While my step-brother summed up his interest in her with one phrase, "She has nice boobs!", I was not in it for the T&A. In fact, it's amazing to watch the show now and see how successfully Lynda Carter was able to wear such a skimpy outfit and not play Wonder Woman as a jiggly, bouncing, sex symbol. She infused her with dignity, courage and strength, pushing her beyond the realm of mere eye candy and titillation.

Every time I watched the show I couldn't wait until Diana Prince would duck into a nearby alley/corridor/abandoned doorway/whatever, glance around with that look of determination and then begin spinning until a ball of light and sound exploded from her, ushering in her change to the red, white, blue and gold spangled form of Wonder Woman. When they would do 2 part cliff hanger episodes that would end with her in peril or with someone potentially discovering her secret I was practically a wreck until the next episode, even though I knew it was all fiction. Something about her inspired me more than any fictional figure I'd encountered up to that point. As a kid, I was not the most able bodied of individuals. I had severe asthma and was being raised by a Christian Scientist mother and step-father, so medical attention was not a part of my daily life. But pain was. I wasn't able to be as active or athletic as a lot of my childhood peers. And while I was still as spazzy as I am now, if not more, I was often winded and wheezing just from walking upstairs to my bedroom. Watching Wonder Woman run, jump, fight and deflect bullets made me long for the ability to spin around and turn into someone strong and amazing. Her adventures were an escape from my illness and my family life. The fact that she always stood for justice, equality and peace were concepts that mattered much more to me later on in life.

My interest in Wonder Woman lead me to start reading comic books. One of the comic books I first remember reading, and loving, was The Uncanny X-Men. At this point I was almost 7 years old and dealing almost daily with feeling like an outcast at my athletics obsessed elementary school. Before I even had a conscious idea that I was gay, I knew that I was different. The X-Men being mutants and having to hide who they were, even moreso than Diana Prince ever had to, really spoke to me. At school I would try to hold my breath as much as possible because my nearly constant wheezing caused my oh-so-friendly classmates to frequently ask me to "stop breathing, it's so loud". One of the first storylines I encountered in the X-Men had to do with Jean Grey transforming from Phoenix into Dark Phoenix, her already awesome powers driving her to madness and vengeance after years of holding herself back and restraining her darker side. I think I wanted to be like her almost more than I wanted to be like Wonder Woman. If I could just get past the barriers created by this illness, I could show people how strong, how powerful I could be. And yeah, maybe I wanted just an eensy bit of revenge against all those assholes in school who wanted me to stop breathing.

Tonight, Red and I are going to see the midnight premiere of X-Men 3: The Last Stand. While there are many people worrying, fretting and naysaying over what Brett Ratner will do to this movie, I am merely excited. Call it simple comic book geekery, but it's much more than that for me. Aside from mutants being shunned by the larger society being a really apt metaphor for queerness, these characters were a huge part of my formative years. They were a haven from a religious upbringing that caused me years and years of pain. They were an escape from bullies, jerks and bad family members. They were the closest I saw to anything in the culture around me that I related to. And Wonder Woman was the glimmer of hope that there were people who could be better. Who believed in valuing everyone, even if they were different, and for fighting for equality and justice for all not just the chosen few. Tonight when I sit in that darkened movie theater watching the screen adaptation of one of my favorite pieces of pop culture ever, I'll be excited, entertained, thrilled and giddy, just like everyone else around me. But I also know a part of me will be so happy to see my childhood heroes and heroines, the characters that gave me hope and refuge, come to life for a few hours in front of me. Because I still relate to them, still need them and the messages that they bring: it's alright to be different, never change for anyone, because your are right and whole the way you already are.


At 5/26/2006 10:41 PM , Blogger Webstar said...

this is awesome. I wish my reasons for liking her were as deep I just loved how she made wearing the us flag not look so fascist. I always thought that if it were a feminist symbol than maybe I could in some way embrace a part of this country. Plus who doesn't love a modified bullet bra- as a c/d cup i applaud the designers architectural skills.

At 6/12/2006 3:23 PM , Blogger adriene crimson said...

Thank you for sharing - I found this sweet and thoughtful. The bit about the kids in school that told you to stop breathing made me sad - why do kids have to be soo mean?

At 6/20/2006 1:06 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

I'm so glad that you wrote this, but I'm glad I didn't read it until after I wrote an essay and submitted it to NPR's "This I Believe" about why I believe in Wonder Woman -- because I wasn't nearly as eloquent as you were, but I only had 500 words....


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